We had some bizarre misadventures, like the elevator incident. The funniest of our exploits occurred in front of the Virgin Mega Store, when a crew of Black Israelites started heckling Royce for hanging out with “two grafted devils, born of rats and pigs.” Royce reached in his pocket, pulled out a knot and made it rain on their DIY genie outfits. “That’s what you want, right? You want some money, here!”
Speaking of money, with a few grand cash in their pockets, courtesy of Shec and the Bad Meets Evil deal, both Em and Royce went completely apeshit in Dr. J’s and Niketown. At this point, though, Em hadn’t figured out his look. In Burbank it had been an everyday uniform of black sweats and grey sweatshirts. And that same damn Nike hat. But being on tour, and having some money, the still brown-haired Em was ready to get fresh. They bought Avirex leather bombers, which Em hilariously hid from Paul, literally under his bed, for fear of seeming fiscally irresponsible. Perhaps the most significant purchase of the trip, though, was the two silver hoop earrings that would become part of his signature look in those early years.
On the Thursday evening Em opened for the Outsidaz at the Cooler, on 14th Street. Afterwards he, Royce, Paul, Skam, myself and Detroit rapper Invincible all piled into a car and rolled up to The Stretch Armstrong Show at Columbia University’s WKCR. Despite ingesting a potpourri of illicit substances, and all of us being a bit rowdy, when Em and Royce got behind the mics, they just blacked-out and, to the delight of everyone in the room, recorded one of their all-time classic freestyles. Of course the cat that posted the audio to YouTube years later edited out my shout out from Stretch. Thx, guy.
Another ridiculous moment came the next day when Em and Paul played the album for a member of the Source staff. I wasn’t there, but I linked up with them after and Eminem was fuming, certain that they hated the album and that they were going to give it one mic. All this because the guy they played it for—who, incidentally, had featured Em in his Unsigned Hype 6 months earlier—said he didn’t love the beats. The irony of this being that A) they really did like the LP and gave it 4 mics, and B) the “hater” they’d played the record for was Riggs Morales, who today is one of Shady Records’ Directors of A&R (and one of Eminem’s biggest fans).
Funny moments aside, the coolest and most memorable part of this experience was watching the Bad Meets Evil single come to life. The recording process started in the Game conference room when Jon gave the guys a CD or two of his friend Rob “REEF” Tewlow’s beats. They picked the beat for “Scary Movies” without hesitation. This carried over to the recording process as well. As I recall, the guys buckled down and wrote and tracked pretty much the entire song, in one night. And it was incredible. With the album in the bag and his buzz growing, Em’s confidence was at a new high. And you could hear in the relentless verse he nonchalantly knocked out, like it was nothing. While they were scribbling in the writers room, me and my friend (and future Complex Senior Editor) Justin Monroe were in the lounge catching a vicious sonning at Madden courtesy of Game label-mate Lord Digga.
“Nuttin’ To Do” was a bit tougher going. As I recall Jon seemed to think “Scary Movies” was great, but was more of a b-side, so there was a push to make the second song a little bit more club friendly. The guys settled on the beat, which everyone agreed was a little more... jiggy, to use a parlance of the day. They got together and decided to trade off every 8 bars, and verses came together fairly quickly. I remember specifically Em talking out the “put a knife in an envelope and have you stabbed in the mail” line while we rode the 6 train with Paul. Sonically, however, they were a bit out of their comfort zone and I believe they left the session without a chorus. On top of all that, there was friction between Jon and Royce over his bold line about being “the hottest shit in the industry” so things were a little tense. But in the eleventh hour, in a moment of true kismet, the guys stumbled, quite literally, on the hook and were able to wrap the record to everyone’s delight.
Can it be that it was all so simple then? Since those sweltering July days in 1998, of course, Eminem and Royce have both both ridden the rollercoaster of rap. Eminem has created some of the greatest rap music ever committed to tape, propelling himself to the absolute zenith of celebrity, only to implode under the pressure... and then triumphantly come back on top. Meanwhile, Royce, armed with an ego that at times overshadowed his formidable talent, took the long road to the riches as he learned how to get out of his own way, slowly revealing his greatness. Over the years they made a handful more songs together, before, much to the dismay of fans falling out with each other. But thankfully, now, Em sober, focused and rhyming with viscous intensity that sparked his career, and Royce mature, humble and rapping the best he ever has, have put aside the past, rebuilt their friendship and reunited to release the long anticipated, and critically hailed Bad Meets Evil EP, Hell: The Sequel.
I flew out to Detroit at the beginning of June, 2011 and caught up with the fellas together for the first time since the ‘90s. We reconnected at Shady’s studio, and even though our memories of the past were spotty at best, the hilarious, creative vibe shared felt like barely any time had passed. Sitting in Paul’s office, in the back, we chatted and they told me how they rebuilt their friendship, what rap-GHB Royce took to become one of the most improved rapper of all time, and we settled the hotly debated topic of whether Eminem did or did not crack a single joke in 2009.
But, no, we did not get stuck in any elevators this time.